A Marine Restoration Scientist for The Nature Conservancy

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Oyster Filtration Past and Present: Putting Numbers on Ecosystem Services.

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Oyster Restoration Resources and Publications

Shel lfish Restoration Network
Native shellfish play vital ecological roles in many estuaries, but are imperiled in many estuaries by habitat loss, over fishing, and pollution. Through a Shellfish Restoration Network, The Nature Conservancy and its partners are working to improve the design and implementation of restoration projects that help to illustrate the ecosystem services that shellfish provide. Through this network, we also hope to demonstrate the elements necessary to expand restoration and conservation to ecosystem scales.


To Join the Network, contact:
Boze Hancock
Marine Restoration Scientist
The Nature Conservancy, Global Marine Initiative or


 October 2012
 Distributed by The Nature Conservancy's Global Marine Initiative

A Marine Restoration Scientist for The Nature Conservancy


Boze Hancock, Marine Restoration Scientist.

There is a new Marine Restoration Scientist with The Nature Conservancy's Global Marine Team. Boze Hancock, The Nature Conservancy Global Marine Team's new Marine Restoration Scientist, has been working in marine restoration in the United States and Australia for over a decade. His introduction to the bivalve restoration in the U.S. was with the NOAA Restoration Center as the Coordinator for the North Cape Shellfish Restoration Program, designed to restore the bivalve resources and services lost due to a large oil spill on the south coast of Rhode Island. For the last 5 years, Boze served as the Coordinator for the National Partnership between TNC and NOAAs Community-based Restoration Program, which has funded nearly 140 restoration projects throughout the U.S. and territories. These projects span the range of habitat types from salmon habitat in the Northwest to coral restoration in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii, with sponge habitat, mangrove, salt marsh, seagrass and plenty of bivalve restoration projects in between. Boze has used the Partnership as a platform to develop the field of bivalve restoration through participation in projects such as developing the Oyster Monitoring Metrics Manual (December 2012 issue), developing Best Practices for Shellfish Restoration, including restoration in closed waters, with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (September 2011 issue), the Oyster Goal Setting Project (July 2012 issue, Oyster reef area and condition) and the Oyster Reefs at Risk study (Beck et al. 2011).

As Marine Restoration Scientist, Boze will be taking over many of the roles Rob Brumbaugh was responsible for prior to accepting his new role as Integrated Ocean Management Lead. Boze will continue to work with restoration practitioners around the country and to advance the field of bivalve restoration in the U.S. through support for quantifying the ecosystem services these habitats provide, and helping to use ecosystem services as a mechanism for setting restoration goals for bays and estuaries around the country. He will also be looking to support the new inclusion of bivalve reefs as a wetland type recognized in the Ramsar Convention by considering sites that might benefit from listing under this category, and he will also be working to expand the field of bivalve restoration and conservation internationally in areas such as Australia and Latin America.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: A new opportunity for international conservation of bivalve reefs

Carmen-and-Lucy-at-TNC-table 2

Staff from The Nature Conservancy attended the Ramsar COP11 meeting to educate representatives from signatory countries about the importance of bivalve reefs and the helpful role of the Ramsar Convention in reversing global losses of this important habitat. Photo: Rob Brumbaugh/TNC.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was created in 1971 to help curb the accelerating loss of wetlands globally, and to increase international collaboration on wetland conservation overall. Dubbed the"Ramsar Convention" after the Iranian city in which it was drafted, it is the only international policy agreement that focuses exclusively on promoting the wise use and protection of the world's wetlands. At present, there are 163 signatory countries working collaboratively to protect wetlands at 2,053 designated Ramsar Sites covering nearly 194 million hectares (approximately 480 million acres). How is this related to shellfish and bivalve habitat like oyster reefs?

One of the key recommendations in a recent global assessment of oyster reef condition (Beck et al. 2011) was to protect bivalve reefs under international agreements such as the Ramsar Convention. Wetlands are defined rather broadly under the convention, and the list of eligible wetland types includes other structured aquatic habitats such as coral reefs down to 6 meters depth, but until recently did not specifically include bivalve reefs. Over the past two years, scientists from The Nature Conservancy worked closely with the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) to compile the necessary information to support bivalve reefs being included among the list of wetland types eligible for nomination as a Ramsar Site. Fortunately, the STRP was in the process of updating the nomination materials including the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) that countries use to nominate new sites, so the timing was perfect for making this addition to the list. In July 2012, the Convention's signatory countries convened at the 11th triennial Conference of Parties (COP-11) in Bucharest, Romania and passed a resolution to adopt the RIS with its updated list of eligible wetland types. This revised data sheet will be available for voluntary use by countries as early as April 2013 after some final formatting details are addressed. While this addition to the list of wetland types may seem a relatively small change, it represents a huge new opportunity for countries to nominate and protect new sites that have bivalve reefs at their core. Such increased international attention and collaboration could be a powerful way to reversing decades of loss that have all but eliminated oyster reefs from some regions of the world.



Oyster Filtration Past and Present: Putting Numbers on Ecosystem Services.


Oysters filtering water in Quicksand Pond on the east side of Narragansett Bay, RI, in 2005. Photo: Rob Brumbaugh/TNC

Oyster reefs provide a suite of valuable ecosystem services, from enhancing fisheries production through to providing coastal protection. But quantifying those services is frequently challenging, and none more so than the service of water filtration. While there are many laboratory based measurements, few studies have attempted to quantify this service in the field, where conditions are variable and frequently suboptimal. Such quantification is, however, a critical next step for both restoration and management.

A new study led by TNC and published this month in Estuaries and Coasts provides many of the answers. The scientists involved used field based measurements to build a model for estimating the volume of water filtered by oyster populations in the field. They then used this model and data on the historical and modern oyster populations from an earlier publication to estimate the volume of water filtered historically (c. 1900) and presently in 13 estuaries around the East and Gulf coasts.

The study reveals that oyster filtration declined in 12 of the 13 estuaries examined, and by a mean of 85%. This is likely to have had a significant effect on the ecology of impacted estuaries. For example, whereas in Matagorda Bay TX, the oyster population historically filtered a volume equivalent to 320 Fenway Park stadiums an hour, it now filters just 2. This estuary is just 1 of 6 in the Gulf of Mexico in which the historic oyster population was capable of filtering the full volume of the estuary within its residence time; an indication that filtration by oysters was historically a dominant force. Now, only one of the 8 estuaries examined in the Gulf of Mexico achieves this feat.

Filtration is a valuable ecosystem service. By increasing the water clarity, oyster filtration promotes the growth and recovery of seagrasses, which themselves also have a high economic value, as highlighted in another recent study.

But it isn't all bad news. The study also highlights some bright spots for management, with Apalachicola Bay showing an increase in filtration pressure from historic; evidence that with sound management of oyster reefs and river flows (ever more critical given regional water management challenges), it is possible to maintain an oyster population capable of providing significant ecosystem function and a productive oyster fishery.

By providing an insight into the ecological impact of the historic and present oyster population, this study helps identify estuaries where large scale impacts of oyster filtration have been lost. More critically still, it creates a framework for estimating the amount of restoration required to bring oyster back to the level where they can once again provide this important service at a large scale.

Funding support for this study was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Partnership between TNC and NOAA Restoration Center, The Turner Foundation and the TNC-Shell Partnership. For more information, please contact Dr. Philine zu Ermgassen.

Upcoming Events and Conferences

Northeast Aquaculture Conference & Exposition/Milford Aquaculture Seminar/International Conference on Shellfish Restoration Special Joint Meeting
Aquaculture and Restoration: A Partnership
December 12-15, 2012 Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa Groton, CT

Note:  If you would like to contribute an article or submit items for the "Looking Ahead" section, please contact Boze Hancock.

Oyster Restoration Publications and Resources

Oyster Restoration Working Group Research and Reports

The Practitioner's Guide to Shellfish Restoration: An Ecosystem Services Approach, as well as back issues of the Shellfish Restoration Clamor are available online.

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